Dear Starfish Diaries, Health, Vegan Livin

A Taste of What’s to Come

I’m invading your inbox today not for a full length blog post, but to give you a sneak preview…a “taste” if you will…of some additions coming soon to Starfish Diaries!

Numero Uno…Recipes!  I’m certainly not a professional chef, but I have a lot of fun putting together creative, good-for-you, vegan recipes in the kitchen.  My only rules are that every recipe be simple, inexpensive, and of course, delicious.  To my husband’s chagrin, my normal cooking style is pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, and I can’t say I’ve ever really minded whether i could reproduce any one creation.  That stops now!  I’m putting together some fun, easy, delicious meals that you will be able to: A) Make super quick, B) Set and forget, i.e. crock-pot style, or C) Make in big batches and eat all week!  Often all of the above.  So stay tuned, and get hungry!

Numero Dos…Guest Posts!  Once a month- timeline subject to change- I will have a guest blogger post a titillating article for your reading pleasure.  If you think you’d like to throw your hat into the Starfish ring, send me a message on the “Contact Us” page, or in the comments below.  Get excited…I have some humdingers lined up for ya.

Numero Tres…Work with me!  This will only excite you if you are looking for a writer, but it’s news nonetheless.  See new page here for more info.

I hope you’re psyched, because I sure am!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and requests.

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries

The Vigilant Gatekeeper: protecting myself from anxiety triggers, and fun facts about popcorn.

As a person with anxiety, I find that I have to be a vigilant gatekeeper for the information that I allow myself to digest.  For example, I am very careful not to read books or watch movies that are very sad or very scary.  Scratch that- even a little sad or a little scary.  I’m just not able to take that content and distinguish my reaction from my organic emotions.  I’ll be very sad or very scared for REAL, and it will take a long time to shake those feelings.  If you think that sounds silly, I totally agree.  I really tried to make it not true, and tortured myself with horror movies and Nicholas Sparks novels for years before I came to a place of acceptance.  So if you hang with me, no, I did not read that book about the girl with cancer, or the dog that died.  And if we’re going to the movies, prepare yourself for a rom-com.  I’ll buy the popcorn.  (Total side note- most movie theater popcorn is vegan!  That radioactive looking “butter” they used is typically soy-based, and dairy free.  Zero nutritional value, and will probably take a year or two off your life, but cruelty free!  Vegan high fives all around.)

Anywho, my emotional defensive game is a critical part of staying mentally healthy.  It applies not only to entertainment sources; but also to conversational topics, specific memories that trigger strong feelings, and even certain people.  I’m not walking around with giant walls up and shunning anyone who reminds me of a childhood bully, but I maintain a steady awareness of what’s allowed to sink in to my delicate psyche.  I get better at this every day, as I get to know myself and learn about what make me feel good versus what makes me feel ick.

Unfortunately, the world does not cater to my needs (it should work on that), and sometimes I’m caught off guard.  Sometimes a toxic little seed will slip between the cracks of my consciousness, and before I realize it’s there, weeds of negativity are growing like, well, weeds.  Unfortunately, their growth only widens the cracks, and allows more unwelcome crap to fall through.  It’s a vicious cycle.

It happened a couple weeks ago.  I was speaking to a woman who helps people to detoxify their diets.  I was intrigued, and excited to learn more about clean eating, as I’ve been working on that part of my life.  One of the first things she pointed out was the “frown line” on my forehead.  The bane of my existence- I know it’s there, I know I make it worse when I’m concentrating and furrow my brow, and I dislike it mucho.  However, she informed me that my line indicates that my liver isn’t functioning correctly, and it’s in desperate need of a detox.  Totally threw me for a loop.  And by loop, I mean spiral.  I went from feeling self conscious, to concerned, to convinced I was dying of liver failure in a matter of minutes.  Not her intention, but health stuff scares me, and as I wasn’t expecting a diagnosis from this (completely non-medical) person, it slipped through the cracks.

Shortly after this incident, I was getting my hair cut.  The stylist noticed some broken hair near my part and asked what caused it.  I explained that I wear a ponytail too often, have my forehead on the mat a lot in yoga, sleep with wet hair, etc.  Nope.  According to her, my hormones and/or my thyroid are in trouble.  It’s the only explanation.  Better get that checked, quick.  Oh dear, the weeds keep a-growin.

Did either of these people intend to upset me?  Of course not!  They thought they were helping.  But their unsolicited diagnosis were poison to my brain- a brain that is home to anxiety just itching for something to feed on.

For the record, my liver is fine.  So is my thyroid, and my hormones.  I know this, but the rational part of me doesn’t come out to play when anxiety is running the show.  She’s such a bully.

But you know what?  Lesson learned.  My gatekeeper just got a little stronger.  Next time someone offers medical counsel (besides my doctor, who I go to when I actually do know something is wrong), I will nod and smile and let it slide off of me like movie theater butter.  Not let it absorb, not let it grow into something bigger than it actually is.

It’s a marathon, this learning to know and love myself business.  Not a sprint.  And every time I hit a wall, I figure out how to go around it next time.  When I look back, I’m grateful for every obstacle, because it got me here; to a place where I know so much more about how to take care of my most valuable resource- me!

Full disclosure: when I’m in the thick of anxiety, I am not grateful- I’m terrified and I’m pissed about it- but I also know I’ll get through it.

I’m sitting on my floor, enjoying a gorgeous Saturday in Florida, munching on (what else) lentil hummus.  In this moment, life is pretty perfect.  My gatekeeper can go on break.

Dear Starfish Diaries, Health, Vegan Livin

Vegan is not a 4 letter word. And yes, I miss cheese.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on veganism for awhile, but struggled to find the right time.  I know that any mention of a vegan lifestyle is an immediate turnoff for a lot of people, and it was important to me to establish myself as a non-judgy, somewhat normal (hmm, might’ve failed there) fellow human before risking my audience’s reaction to a post with “vegan” in the title.  I’m not sure if I’m there yet, and let’s be honest, my audience is still in its early stages (those of you who are here are just the BEST.  THE BEST!).  But hell, there’s no time like the present, and if you haven’t run away screaming yet, we might just have a chance to get through this together.

I think part of me always felt a little wrong eating meat.  I had to deliberately not think about where my food came from, because the reality gave me a guilty feeling.  Now, as a person with anxiety, I am plagued by guilty feelings pretty much all of every day, and sometimes deliberately ignoring them is the right thing to do.

 No, Liz, you did not offend the scary homeless person by locking your doors.  Just because you didn’t say “I love you” before you hung up the phone does not mean something horrible will happen causing you to regret it for the rest of your life.  Yes, the stove was off when you left the house.  Why?  Because you haven’t cooked in a week.  

However, this guilty feeling felt different.  I suspected something bad was happening, and if I let myself really KNOW about the bad stuff, I could never un-know it.  So I kept not knowing.

The feeling became stronger when I got involved with animal rescue.  Stronger still when I let myself learn about how smart, sensitive, and relationship-oriented farm animals are.  Then I read the book.

I really just wanted to lose weight, dude- not change my entire value system.

It was called “Skinny Bitch.”  I thought it might make me feel cool and get skinny all at once.  Nah.  It went waaay into factory farming, the horrendous treatment of farm animals, and the inevitable ending of lives that we studiously ignore or try to convince ourselves is “humane.”  Shit.  Couldn’t un-know it anymore.

So I became a vegetarian on the spot, and truly never looked back.  Did burgers and barbecue still smell delicious to me?  Heck yeah!  Do they to this day?  Sure do, I’m sorry to say.  But I also feel really sad when I walk past the meat section, and have nightmares- real ones- that I accidentally start eating meat again.

I dabbled in veganism over the years, but always went back to eggs and dairy, telling those around me that I just felt depleted, and it was too hard.  Those around me readily agreed that going vegan is just crazy and not sustainable.  But the more I read about the egg and dairy industries, and how they really are the SAME as the meat industry, the less I could un-know that, too.  So vegan I became, and depleted I am not.  I eat plenty, and while I struggle with balancing fiber and protein and carbs and all the vitamins and minerals we need to live- that has nothing to do with my vegan lifestyle, and everything to do with bread and oreos tasting better than spinach and beans!  There is truly no difference in difficulty balancing a vegan diet versus a non-vegan diet.  We all have to say no to pizza once in a while if we want to feel good.

The purpose of this post is not to force you to become vegan, or to make you feel bad about your lifestyle.  The purpose of this blog as a whole is to make you feel good about yourself, and to encourage you to make others feel good as well.  For me, vegan is the only way I can live my life and feel good about me.  And do I wish that everyone was vegan, and no animal had to suffer?  Absolutely.  But I ate animals for most of my life, and the people I love most in the world eat animals, and while that makes me sad, it doesn’t make me love them any less.

I’m vegan because I believe that every living creature has value.  If I devalue you for not being vegan, I don’t have much of a leg to stand on, do I?  

I’ve joined and then left many a vegan group online, finding them to be far too hateful.  It makes me think of pro-life groups who murder gynecologists.  That contradiction will forever baffle me.  When I became vegan, it was out of love, and if someone had tried to shame me, or call me names, or try to hurt me before I made that choice, I would have run as far in the other direction as my appetite could take me!

When people come to me asking for education on the vegan diet, I so so happily comply.  If you would like some information here on this blog that I haven’t offered up already, I will so so happily provide it!  And if you had a chicken dinner tonight but still want to ask me questions, I will just as gladly oblige.

If you haven’t already, I would urge you to check out one of my favorite sanctuary stories, Esther the Wonder Pig.  Esther’s dads follow an “Esther Approved Diet,” shying away from the less favorable vegan label.  Their loving way of promoting a kindness based lifestyle is completely inspiring, and I truly think they’re changing the world.

I’ll write more in the future about specific dietary choices, but for now I wanted to put my thoughts out there to encourage you to be less afraid of the word “vegan.”  I get it- even when I was vegetarian, vegan sounded scary, and made me feel bad.  And I clung to eggs and cheese like nobody’s business.  But I eat plenty of delicious food now, and don’t feel deprived, and it has nothing to do with willpower, and everything to do with what feels like the right thing to do.

But yes, I miss cheese.  Vegan cheese sucks.  And bacon will always smell good and make my stomach growl.  Veggie burgers are delicious, but turkey burgers were my fave, and I sure wish turkeys were jerks.  I do have moments when I feel like it’s unfair that I made this choice while the rest of the world dines away happily, but they pass.  I have many more moments when I feel really proud of who I am, proud of the label, and hey- lentil hummus is vegan, so life is pretty damn good.

If anything from this post sticks with you, I hope these three things do:

  • Vegan is not a bad word; it is based upon love, not hate.
  • Check out Esther the Wonder Pig.  Even if she doesn’t change your life, you’ll be glad you did.
  • I think you are fantastic.

 

 

Dear Starfish Diaries, Love Letters

Sharing the Podcast Love

We’re in week 4 of the 4 week plan to cut crap out of our diets, and for this final week we bade farewell to our processed snack foods.  While I’m missing crackers and chips, I’ve found myself “snacking” on a new addiction…podcasts.

Oh, the podcast.  A beautiful invention, and available in endless flavors!  Whether your hungry for health & wellness, entrepreneurial tips, kitchen hacks, astrology, parenting, yoga, addiction recovery, or travel; there is a podcast for you.  Hell, there are probably 10,000 podcasts for you!

My 30-45 minute commute has become DELIGHTFUL since I discovered podcasts.  My recently discovered love affair with running is SO much spicier with my new friends chattering in my ear.  I find myself looking forward to previously mundane tasks because they provide opportunities to tune in!  Game.  Changer.

I’m here today to spread the love.  While you may not hold the same interests as I do (what, are you crazy???  I kid.), my intention is to give you a jumping off point that will allow you to dip your toe in a podcast puddle before diving into the sea of your own favorite shows.

First things first- where does one find these conversational gems?  Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is an app for that.  There are a lot of apps for that.  If you are an apple person, you probably have itunes, and thus you are already privvy to the podcast mother-load.  You can move past this portion of the program.  They’re all right there in the palm of your hand, so lucky you.  Pin a rose on your nose.

Love you, Apple peeps!

Olive branch?

If you’re an Android person like me, I recommend Stitcher.  It’s easy to search for podcasts on this app, and you can set it up so that it downloads your favorites while you have wifi, so you aren’t using data when you tune in later in the car.  Major win.

If you don’t want to download an app, you can also stream episodes from the podcast’s site itself, but that will be more data-heavy if you’re away from home.  I still do this for the few shows that aren’t on Stitcher yet….to my husband’s dismay.

Like I said, you can find podcasts on virtually ANY topic.  I found one I loved through a blog, and then started listening to her guests’ podcasts, and branched out from there.  You’ll have your own journey, but feel free to cast off using one of my faves listed here:

Soul on Fire: This podcast is by Jordan Younger of The Balanced Blonde, who I’ve brought up before.  She’s like chocolate covered pretzels to my ears- fun and sweet and easy to go through a whole bag without noticing.  She talks about practices, treatments, foods, and supplements in the health and wellness arena- some of which have yet to hit the east coast- and I just get a little sugar high every time I tune in.  Her show’s purpose is to interview people who have set their “soul on fire” by following their passion in life, which is always inspiring.  She’s my fave, and I usually find myself following her guests on every social media platform immediately upon finishing each episode.

The Party in My Plants Podcast: I mean, can you even?!  The name alone is fantastic.  A show about plant based nutrition with a fun spin.  Sometimes I find that it sounds a little scripted, but when Talia has guests on the convo gets much more comfortable.  It’s energetic and fills me with hope that I will be a whiz in the kitchen if I keep trying!  Her schtick is that “Eating healthy doesn’t suck!”  and I love that, because, well, sometimes it kind of does.  She’s also inspired me to purchase some very cheap, very cool kitchen gadgets.

Raise Your Hand, Say Yes:  Tiffany is super cool.  She’s also 37, which is about a decade older than most of the podcasters I follow.  Thank God.  She’s all about saying YES to the things in life that will feed your soul, and not in a cheesy way- totally down to earth and easy to relate to.

That’s So Retrograde: This one’s a little hippie dippie, but I’m down with that.  The theme song alone will get you hooked.  As you’d expect, Elizabeth and Stephanie talk about astrology, getting zen, and pretty much anything they’re in the mood for.  Totally chill, man.

Run, Selfie, Repeat:  A newbie on my favorites as I wanted to add a running cast to my workout list for obvious reasons.  So far I’m entertained.

Why Not Now?:  Amy Jo interviews people who had a “why not now” moment in their life that they took a leap from, and it is super cool to hear about people who took big risks and made big changes to better themselves and their lives.  I like to be inspired, can you tell?

Truth and Dare: This is a new podcast, but I’ve been following Allie’s blog and online yoga classes for awhile and I’m beyond excited that she is moving the show to the land of the audible.  There are only 3 or 4 episodes out so far, but I’m psyched to hear it grow- she is a yoga badass who is making her dreams come true with some serious determination.  Love her.

Here are some others that I won’t go into detail about, but would be remiss to neglect as I truly enjoy them as well:

The Rich Roll Podcast, Being Boss, The Lively Show, Yoga Crush, Blissful Bites Podcast, HOME Podcast, Let It Out with Katie Dalebout, WANTcast: The Women Against Negative Talk Podcast, and One Part Podcast.

Check out one, or all, or none, but at the very least, do some searching of your own and find something that speaks to you!  Your brain will thank you for giving it a break from cackling morning show radio hosts and “It’s HUUUUUGE-AH” commercial breaks.  Promise.

If you are obsessed with a podcast that I didn’t mention, I would be eternally grateful to hear from you!  I am always looking for new fab shows to check out, and since we’re blog-besties, I’m certain you have excellent taste.

 

Health, Run

3 Week Check In: Takeaways, Thoughts on Gluten, and Fab Results

Week 3 has nearly come to a close, and I don’t know about you, but I’d pay good money for a piece of chocolate.

The 4 week plan to cut out processed foods has overall been pretty painless, if I’m honest.  Before I get into how I’m feeling, which I know has been keeping you up at night wondering, I’d like to list some takeaways thus far.

  • Week 1 was tough because I really like a sweet drink with meals, and Crystal Light was my jam.  I also loooove a nice, sweet cup of tea, courtesy of Splenda or the like.  Unfortunately, I’m finding myself drinking much less tea because I miss the sweetness, but I’m drinking waaaaaay more water.  With lemon.  More on that to come.
  • Week 2 wasn’t terrible.  I found that most of the white flour items I eat- pasta, bread, bagels- have whole grain counterparts that are really just as satisfying, if not more.  I’ve come to appreciate sprouted breads, brown rice, quinoa, and even sweet potatoes for breakfast!  I feel much better about myself than I used to on days that I would follow up my healthy breakfast with a free bagel at work that I most certainly did not need.
  • Week 3.  Sugar.  It’s been interesting.  I like my sweets, and without an artificial sweetener to substitute, it has not been easy.  But sweet potatoes, various nuts, and fruits have really eased the pain!  The week isn’t over yet, but I can say that I’m noticing a substantial shift in what I find to be sweet- I don’t need a full on sugar rush to satisfy me, and even some grapefruit can scratch the itch!  Fascinating…

I have to be frank.  I don’t feel different, or lighter, or more pure 3 weeks in; as I’d hoped.  I still feel hungry even when I’m full, queasy when I’m REALLY full, and bloated.  All. The. Time.  And here is what I have to say about it:

WHAT THE EVER-LOVING HELL IS UP WITH THAT???????

Deep breaths.

Anywho.  I still think it’s a good plan, because by the end of next week, I really will be eating primarily natural, whole, real food.  That’s a damn good start toward better health, and I will have done it without feeling dramatically deprived.  I plan to stick with it most of the time.  And if you’re joining me, I hope you’re having some more positive physical effects, which I think most people probably are.

Now, before you sound the alarm and send me off to get tested, calm your jets, doc.  I’ve done the doctor thang.  About a year and a half ago, I had similar gut issues- major bloating, weird energy swings that didn’t correlate with caffeine or sugar, and general grossness in the belly arena.  Being the rational person that I am, I was convinced that I was dying of any and every illness that WebMD could spout back at me.  I had many a test done, and, lo and behold, was just fine.  So I said SCREW IT and stopped paying any attention to my diet (aside from the veg thing, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is not a health choice for me).  Shockingly, this did not cure me!  So here I am today, working on resolving the issue naturally, because, *gasp* , I think my tummy trouble might have to do with what I’m putting into it.

Hence the 4 week plan, and hence my frustration that 3 weeks in, I’m not cured.  Like I said, rational!

So I think my next, super reluctant step, will be to try cutting out gluten.  Major caveat here:  I am a firm believer that every body is different, and will tolerate and not tolerate very different things at different points in said body’s lifetime.  Going gluten free is super trendy right now, and there are people who will tell you it is the cure-all for all your ailments: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – hell, its the only thing standing between you and magical powers.

Let it be…gluten free?

There are absolutely people who are better off without gluten; specifically those with a true condition such as Celiac Disease, and many who simply don’t digest it well, or find that it increases their body’s inflammation response.  Those are real things.  But as a person who has cut out a lot of foods in her diet for ethical reasons, I can tell you that: #1, elimination does not equal better health, and #2, substitutions for those eliminations are often MUCH worse for you than the original food group.  A gluten free, vegan muffin can be so freaking chock full of chemicals and sugar that it will survive the Apocalypse, while your grandmother’s full fat version with butter, eggs, lard (maybe, I don’t know your grandma) and white devil-flour probably kept her alive and kickin until she was 100.

Please hold while I stumble off of my podium.

I’m uncomfortable.  My stomach feels distended most of the time.  I’ve worked on cutting out a lot of the junk in my diet (yes, this is only week 3, but I’ve tried before), and I have never tried eliminating gluten for any significant amount of time.  In the interest of my health, I would be remiss not to do this experiment, so I’m gonna.  I’m not going to ask or encourage anyone to do this with me, because, while the 4 week plan cut out foods that can wreak havoc on any body, I really do believe that gluten is far from a universal “bad” food.  And if I cut it out for a month or so and don’t feel any different, I will 100% re-introduce it to my diet.  Have I made my point on the gluten subject?  Have I beaten this horse to death yet?

I hope not, I’m vegan.

So now that I’ve kept you reading for faaaaar longer than you planned on being in the bathroom, I want to wrap up with some really, truly, fantastic and EXCITING things that have come out of the 4 week plan so far.  Like really fab.

  • Food.  In finding whole, healthy substitutes for the junk I’m cutting, I have adopted some super cool new eating habits.  I am rocking the natural peanut butter action, and I found a Trader Joe’s version with chia and flaxseeds!  Triple score!  I’m also totally transitioning my hummus vehicle from pretzels to carrots and….I’m not hating it!  High fives all around!
Fridge full of hummus…this is how I know my husband loves me.
  • Beverages.  There are way cool beverages out there that have low or no sugar, nothing artificial, and are totally satisfying.  Who knew???  I’m drinking hot water with lemon every single morning, and it just makes me feel good; not only from the soothing temperature and flavor, but from the ritual itself.  Then I drink water all day long, and I just know that’s gotta be doing good things for the pipes.  And as it turns out, I freaking love Kombucha!  Mother Kombucha, my local producer (brewery?  I don’t know the lingo yet) has some glorious flavors, and I’m finding that I love love love the mildly sweet, slightly fizzy, totally odd taste!  Add some probiotics and weird floaty-things, and I’m all in.  I like freaking people out with my beverage choices.
Alllll the fermented goodness!
  • Cooking.  Well, I’m just doing it more.  Roasting veggies, experimenting with new recipes, trying out fancy oils (healthy fats baby, woop!), and trying out gadgets I forgot I had!
  • Experimenting.  I made my own cashew milk!  It’s super simple!  But a $7 bag of nuts took 8 hours (counting soak-time), made a mess, and produced ONE glass of milk.  It was DELICIOUS.  Plus, I got to buy a nut milk bag, and there is just no way to say that to mixed company without getting funny looks.  Made the 8 hours and mess TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Nut milk bag…tee hee! So immature.
  • Moving my bod!  This is the most exciting thing of all.  Being more mindful of the food I eat and how it makes my body feel made me want to do more good things for my body.  I made a really big decision that you might have see on my Facebook page.  I really want to run a marathon!  First I need to start running, like, at all, but give me about 10 months and it’s going to happen!  I’ve run before, and my dad is the world’s best coach, so I am PSYCHED about starting this journey.  And journey it shall be.  Never fear, I am still totally committed to sticking with yoga, and I plan for 2018 to be the year of the marathon AND the beginning of Yoga Teacher Training, which will be an amazing journey of its own.
Dude, the medal is a STARFISH! #meanttobe

Overall, I can tell I’ve turned a corner.  I’m dedicated to feeling good and making healthy choices.  And for once in my life, it’s not about losing weight – I expect that to happen organically, and I’m not complaining – but I’m excited to eat well and move more for bigger reasons.  Not to punish myself for being big.

I feel like I may have stolen thunder from what should have been a good wrap up post for the end of the 4 weeks, but this has all been ping-ponging in my head so hard that it had to come out!  I started this blog to share my journey of self discovery and self love, and I really feel like I’m getting there.

I’m so grateful to have you along for the ride.

Dear Starfish Diaries, Health

Thank you, Universe, for my awesome life. And oh my gawwwwd I miss pretzels (4 week plan check-in).

I am so flippin lucky.  And I just need to talk about it for a tick.  Set aside my amazing, supportive husband.  Ignore my loving, forgiving family.  Pay no attention to my life-long, inspiring friends.  Turn a blind eye to my adorable dog, rewarding job, cozy home, food on the table, and sunshine-y day.

Actually, scratch that.  That’s some good stuff.  Recognize.

But what I’m feeling grateful for at this moment is you.  You, who are reading this blog that I just adore writing.  Some of you are part of that rock-star list: family, friends, co-workers.  If you were the only ones I was speaking to, I’d still feel like the luckiest chick on the planet.  But you’re not, and that blows my mind.

People I’ve never met are reading!  I literally do not have the words to express how fantastic that is.  Thank you for taking the time to get to know me, and hopefully to get to know yourself a little better.  It would make my day – my year – if you would leave a comment or drop me a line, so I could return the favor.  You are so beyond awesome.

And now that I’ve enjoyed that moment, let’s chat about the 4 week plan to cut crap out of our diets.  If you’ve been following along, we’ve just completed week 2: a farewell to white carbs.  Week 1 went pretty well, minus a slip up that you can read about here.  Week 2 was a success in the sense that I did not eat anything made with white flour: no pasta, not a single bagel, no delicious Ritz crackers (they’re vegan btw), and NO PRETZELS.  Have I mentioned how much I love lentil hummus?  I can’t even give you a link here, because I mention it in virtually every post.  And lentil hummus’ delicious partner, the pretzel snap, is my second love.  This week, I’ve enjoyed my hummus with carrots.  Not. The. Same.  But I did it!  And worked out 3 mornings at 6am, which is practically the middle of the night!  High-fives all around.

I miss you, pretzels.

Bread is still in my diet- I’m getting used to sprouted whole grain toast (with organic PB or avocado, mmmmm), and when I’m dying for a cracker, I substitute a rice cake.  Cardboard on its own, but scratches that crunchy itch when slathered in hummus or peanut butter.  Brown rice or quinoa instead of pasta (I love my hubby but he is killin me with his delicious looking/smelling pasta dinners), and sweet potatoes when I’m craving a starchy bagel.

See, I’m not trying to starve myself, just training my body to crave healthier, nutritious versions of what I’ve been eating for so long.  So far so good.

Oh, and still on the no artificial sweetener kick and getting much better!  Hot water with lemon in the morning is totally rocking my world, and when I want a sweet bev, I grab some aloe vera juice, which is my fave, and kind of the “new coconut water,” if you ask me.  Yummmm.

On to week 3.  Sugar, be gone!  Oh dear, this will not be easy.  No more Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Ta ta, jelly with my PB.  Toodaloo soy ice cream.  (Sobs)

But hello, fruit!  Kiwi, berries, oranges (I live in Florida, after all), mango!  It will be grand.

I also plan to attempt making my own nut milk this week, so stay tuned for the results of that titillating experiment.

If you are joining me, speak up!  I love you for reading, and since I write about multiple topics: mental health, yoga, vegan life, wellness, etc. – I would love to hear what speaks to you.  Hope your weekend is as fab as you are.

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries

Anatomy of a Panic Attack*

*Warning.  This post describes a panic attack, as I’ve experienced them.  If you are struggling with mental health and easily triggered, please be aware that this could bring up intense feelings, and carefully decide whether it is the right time for you to have that experience.
This is different from my usual posts, but it’s part of a story that I feel strongly about sharing.  If you have ever suffered from anxiety and panic, it’s incredibly isolating, and it’s important for you to know that you are not alone, and not crazy.  If you have not experienced these symptoms, you probably know someone who has, and it is probably very hard for you to understand.  The more we talk about it, the more we all will feel supported.

 

Suddenly I am very hot.  It occurs to me that I’m visibly sweating, and I immediately feel another wave of heat.  I look down, and my hands are shaking.  Before I realize what I’m doing, my hand comes to my chest and I become aware of how tight it is.  It’s hard to breathe, and hard to hide my breathlessness.  Everything in my body is screaming “RUN,” but I am glued to the spot.  I want to ask for help but I’ve lost the ability to form words.

There is no danger.

My mind is racing, but one thought keeps pushing its way to the surface.  “You’re not OK.  Something bad is happening.  This is never going to end.”

I am completely safe.

I realize I’m taking an inventory of my racing thoughts, and picking out the ones that make sense to me.  The ones that say I’m no good, I’m a terrible sister/daughter/wife/citizen/adult/person.  I run through every mistake I’ve ever made- every time I’ve caused anyone pain.  I cling to all the bad, because if something bad isn’t happening, these physical symptoms don’t make sense, and I’m just crazy.

No one is angry at me.

My thoughts shift from the past to the future, and I imagine all of the disasters that are inevitably coming.  Good things don’t happen to bad people, and I’ve already established that I’m bad.  I glance at my phone and I’m terrified of the people inside; the people who are going to find out, or who already know.

Breathe.

My chest is getting tighter, and I’m sure I’m going to die.  I’m not afraid of dying in the conventional sense, rather, I’m afraid of how much more pain I’ll cause everyone when I’m gone.  I’m a failure already in this moment, but more so if I die.

I have been through this before.

Inside I’m screaming.  My head and my chest are going to explode with how loud I’m screaming.  For help, for forgiveness, for relief, ANYTHING.  A stranger walks by, and I smile.  Drop my hand from my chest and wipe my sweaty brow with an embarrassed shrug.

What does it feel like to be normal like you?

 

Stop.

 

Breathe.  You are safe.  You are good.  There is no danger.  Breathe; count 4 in, 5 out.  Do it again.  Your only job right now is to breathe.  The phone can wait.  Everyone can wait.  You’ve been through this before and it ALWAYS. ENDS.

The words are coming from a place of peace, and of love.  My words.  The spell is broken, and I’ve stepped outside of myself for a moment because I am the person who heard my screams.  I am the only person who can hear them, and I am the only person who can help.  I speak to myself like I would to a child, and I soothe my fear with soft, loving words.

You are not alone.  You are good.  You are loved.  You are strong.

I can breathe again, and the tightness in my chest is softening.  I tentatively stretch; surprised to discover that I’ve regained the ability to move.  I get off my bench and walk, and breathe.

Another one is over.  Another one survived.

I will feel fragile now for a day or so, and I’ll be kind to myself out of respect for that fragility.  Loud noises will scare me, and I won’t want to eat, but I’ll make myself try, and I’ll make myself drink.  Dehydration leads to a racing heart, and there’s no place for that in this recovering space.  I will tell the people I love most what I’ve been through, and because they, too, have been through this with me before, they will give me loving support and encouragement, and let me rest while I need to.  The rest of the world can wait.

We can all trust me to get out of bed tomorrow and start again.  It’s been a long road, but I survived, and it’s only going to get better from here.

Dear Starfish Diaries, Health

Cutting The Crap, Week 1 Down! Wins and Woops!

I have a confession to make.  After being uber committed to week 1 of my 4 Week Plan to Cut the Crap, I totes fell off the wagon today.  I had a super lazy day; vegged out to the Kardashians, finished my book (if you haven’t read “Love Warrior,” you really must.  Cannot tell you how much I loved it.), and didn’t bother showering.  I make no apology for my day of leisure, but unfortunately it led me down the rabbit hole of eating way. too. much.  Which was a gateway drug to my true addiction, Crystal Light (not “lite” which I erroneously believed when I wrote the first post- woops).  So I had a big ‘ol glass with my second helping of lentil hummus this afternoon.

Old Liz would have thrown in the towel at this slip, hated herself, and given up the plan entirely.  As I’ve mentioned, I do love to plan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I follow through every time.  But I am not old Liz.  I am new Liz, and I will practice what I preach, which is to love yo damn self!  And love means forgiveness.  So, earlier-today-Liz, I forgive you.  And I will re-commit to cutting the crap out of my diet, because I love you enough to put good food in your body so you can feel good and stick around the planet as long as possible.

So, now that the confession is out there, time to celebrate success!  Aside from today, I went without any artificial sweetener all week!  I had unsweetened tea, water with lemon every morning, and narry a diet soda crossed my lips!  Woop!  Not only that, but I made an effort to eat more good, whole food.  I even cooked up some mean white bean and lentil burgers from Thug Kitchen Cookbook, and they totally rocked my world.  Um, with Trader Joe’s Goddess Dressing?  Game changer.

Game changer.
My attempt to show you the recipe. You should probably just buy the book.

 

The biggest plot twist happened on Thursday and Friday…guys, I got my rear out of bed early and exercised.  The only explanation is body snatchers.

So, onto week 2 with gusto!  This week is out with all things white!  No pasta, white bread, white rice, white flour!  Toodaloo bagels!  See ya lata, pretzels!  My lentil hummus will miss you, but it has a hot date with some carrots that are lookin mighty nice.  All the while continuing on the no artificial sweetener kick.

Lapses happen; in diets, in life.  The only thing that comes from obsessing over past stumbles is more stumbling.  I mean, you can’t take steps forward while looking behind you, right?  I’m a fall-risk even when I AM paying attention!  So if you are just starting, if you started and stopped, if you had a good but not great week of whatever improvements you’re working on in your own life, hold your head high and move on.  Truly, it’s the only option.

If you are joining me on my cut-the-crap journey, or if you’re embarking on a transformation of your own, leave some love!  Life is way more fun when we cheer each other on.

Adventures in Anxiety, Dear Starfish Diaries, Yogalicious

Living in the moment. Let’s do that more, shall we?

You know that feeling you get when it’s alllmost the weekend?  Or the day before vacation?  You can practically taste it- the fun, the freedom, the seemingly endless span of “me time” ahead?  You CANNOT beat that feeling.  It’s delicious.

How about that feeling you get when you have a big deadline looming?  An exam coming up, a huge bill nearly due, or a dreaded phone call you can no longer avoid?  Worst.  Feeling.  Ever.

Anticipation can be so much more significant than any actual event!  The build-up to something great is AMAZING, and the build-up to something unpleasant is HELL.

So…about living in the moment.  Let’s do that more, shall we?

If I’m not careful, I find myself missing a lot of moments.  This morning, I saw the sun rising and thought about how lucky I was to enjoy something so beautiful.  Almost simultaneously, my brain stepped in with a hand held up in my face, and said, “Stop right there, moment!  This COULD be wonderful, but it’s not, and I’ll tell you why.  You need to lose weight, pay down your debt, get your oil changed, check your email….after all of that is done, you can THINK about enjoying a moment.  Until then we have A LOT of things that need to be worried about.”

Not cool, brain.

Lucky for me, I’ve been rehearsing for this very scenario.  When in savasana, the final resting pose at the end of yoga practice, the teacher instructs us to let go of trying to control our bodies and our minds.  It’s a form of meditation, and a really nice, non-judgy, brain-you-can’t-get-me-down meditation.  When thoughts come running through my head, I acknowledge them, and watch them pass by, like cars driving past me on the highway.  As much as I feel like I should try to catch up with them, see where they’re going in such a rush- I don’t.  I stay in my nice, slow lane.

Granted, it’s easier after yoga; I’m tired and happy, surrounded by zen-ny people, there’s incense and soft music…it’s yogalicious, baby.  But those beautiful savasanas are training me to recognize when my brain is trying to get me to drag race with my thoughts, and I’m getting stronger.

Anticipation can be fabulous.  Tomorrow is Friday, and I’m excited, and I’m certainly not going to rein that in.  But when planning for the future gets in the way of my sunrise, I’ll need to step in.  Someday the part of me that reeeeally wants to worry about things- that thinks I can not and should not enjoy my life UNTIL everything is resolved and perfect- that part of me will learn to be quiet.  Even without the incense.

Dear Starfish Diaries

Welcome to Starfish Diaries!

Da Da dummmmmm…..I’m super excited to FINALLY show you my new logo, created by the fabulous artist of PS Enjoy Your Life.  Whether you’ve been reading for awhile (THANK YOU!) or you’re just joining me (WELCOME!), I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about why I’m blogging and what you can expect from this site.

But First…..here it is!!

I’m obsessed.  It’s fun and colorful and uplifting….all of the things I want to you to feel when you stop by this page.  I hope you love it too!

Speaking of the things I want you to feel, here’s my spiel.

I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling afraid, and not good enough.  (For what, for who?  Couldn’t even tell ya.)  I’ve been on a journey for the past few years that has NOT been without its peaks and looow valleys, toward figuring out who the heck I am, and loving the bajeesus out of that person.  It’s been hard, but it’s been exciting, and it’s far from over. My hope is that if you are going through any kind of transition, or a similar journey of self-discovery, that you’ll read some of what I have to say and get that, “OMG me toooo!” feeling.  The one that makes you feel less alone, less abnormal, and filled with hope.  I spent a lot of time searching for inspiring books, blogs, TV shows, etc, looking for words that resonated, and every time I stumbled upon something that clicked it healed a little part of my soul.

There are a handful of topics that I could talk about for days, and you’ll see them appear here frequently.  Those are mental health (shout out to my anxiety peeps!), veganism (I will never lecture you, cross my heart), yoga (namaste), and general self-care and positivity.  Even if you’re a fully sane (lucky duck), meat eating, downward-dog hating couch potato, I really do think you’ll find something good here.  Even if it’s just a laugh- I mean, I do mention toots occasionally, and are they ever NOT funny?  Nah.

I won’t lie and say that this is a completely selfless endeavor- far from it!  Writing and sharing has been extremely liberating- therapeutic, even!  And hey, if someday an agent stops by and wants to pay me a bazillion dollars to write a book…so be it.  #agirlcandream

I do hope to create a community of positive, supportive people who lift each other up, and, more importantly, learn to lift up their fabulous selves.  Be your own biggest fan.

If you’re just tuning in, I’d be beyond thrilled to hear from you- check out some old posts- there are fun, lighthearted lists like this, there are more personal posts like this, and if you want to hop on board the ol’ clean eating ship I’m trying to keep afloat, check it here.  Oh, and if you’re wondering if this blog thang is only for kids these days, check out this.  You can follow along by subscribing via email, or follow me on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Whether or not you decide to check back in from time to time (I really hope you do), I think you are just the bees knees for stopping by.  And because I AM obsessed with the new logo, here it is again: